Upcycling, Recycling, Downcycling – What is the difference?

In this day and age, where we are pretty darn good at using and throwing away, it gets more and more important to recycle. Luckily, it’s a very popular thing to do, and when more people start doing it, it helps the environment. On top of that, it’s cheaper to buy a used chair from someone who doesn’t need it anymore, than it is to get one at the store, who is only interested in making a good profit off of you. When you buy second hand, you can often get things that are not even available at stores anymore, and might even have a history to go with them.

I absolutely love visiting second hand stores and flea markets, and it also makes me happy, when a used item of mine can be reused by someone else. Some of the jewelry I make is partly recycled, as I buy old jewelry second hand, to use most of the parts in new creations. This results in unique and fun ideas, and jewelry not everyone owns.

It’s not always that easy to define what reusing is though, and today I’ll try to explain the three different methods of doing so.

Let’s start with that we all know most about, shall we? Recycling!

It basically means to reuse something that was already used, whether it is by you or someone else. If you go to a flea market and by a table, you are recycling it, as you are going to use that table after someone else already did. The item doesn’t even matter, as it doesn’t have to be something big or expensive. It’s also recycling, if you split something into its original pieces, and reuse some of those parts to create something new. This is very popular, as it’s not only limited to creative uses, but it’s also a good way to get spare parts for a greater whole. Like a used seat for a car, or an almost new tire for your bicycle, that someone didn’t need anymore. Recycling is good for the environment and your wallet, as you reuse a product or material, instead of just trashing it.

Now let’s have a look at something else, that is sometimes mistaken for recycling; Upcycling!

The word actually speaks for itself. If you upcycle something, it’s usually a material used for something it wasn’t produced for. Let’s say you got that recycled tire for your bicycle, and you use it until it has too many holes to patch up. Now, you can either trash it, or upcycle it, as it’s useless to recycle. Upcycling it would mean, to create something entirely new with it, like a handbag (handbags made of old tires are insanely popular), although it wasn’t initially meant to be used as a material for that product. Did you know that making a hat using newspaper is also upcycling? Chances are, you’ve already upcycled something, but didn’t even know it. Just as recycling, upcycling is very good for the environment, as you create something new, instead of trashing what you can reuse.

On to the last, and probably least popular method; Downcycling!

As you might have already guessed just by reading the word itself, this is not a good thing to do. Downcycling means, that you have some perfectly new and fine material, and create something with it, that wasn’t necessary, or is of less value than the original material. I’m sure you know of the method to create your own paper, don’t you? Tiny pieces of paper mixed with water, and then dried up to create a new sheet of paper. That’s a nice thing to do, if the paper you used was recycled, but using five sheets of brand new paper, to create one sheet of paper with less value, is exactly what downcycling is. Spending perfect material, to create new material of less worth is hurting the environment, so don’t do it, if you would like to stay on good terms with the bear outside your window.

That should clear up the differences between the three methods, and hopefully it helped you understand them better. Recycling is always a fun and good thing to do, but let’s do it the right way, and don’t waste materials on something that is not worth it. Got useless scraps left from your projects? Make sure you throw them into the proper recycle bin, as that is also a way of helping nature, and letting the industry reuse their own material, like refill bottles and recycled paper.

Are you recycling? What experiences do you have with it? Share your thoughts on this matter, and help motivate and inspire other people to do something good for our world 🙂

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  1. Recycling an sich ist ja nicht schlecht, aber ich selber bin kein Fan davon. Was ich nicht brauche kommt in den Mülleimer/Mülltonne.

    Wobei ich auch ganz ehrlich sagen muss: von Mülltrennung halt ich auch nicht viel. Mir ist das zum einen zu Kompliziert da ich die ganzen Materialien nicht voneinander Unterscheiden kann und am Ende wird sowieso fast alles auf einem haufen verbrannt. Ist leider so.

    Allerdings bin ich klip und klar ein Feind derer, die ihren Müll im Meer entsorgen oder im Wald. Sowas geht gar nicht. Es gibt Mülltonnen die man benutzen kann wenn man irgendwas nicht mehr braucht.

    Am Ende muss wirklich jeder selber Entscheiden ob er aus den DIngen noch etwas machen will oder es in den Mülleimer wirft.

    • Ich bin ja auch der Meinung, dass Müll einfach immer Müll bleibt, und oft sieht man in Second Hand Läden vieles davon rumstehen. Vielleicht will das ja wer haben? XD

      Mülltrennung nehmen wir hier aber schon ernst, und seit ich mal mit meinem Freund auf der Arbeit war um zu sehen wie das alles abgeht, bin ich schon der Meinung, dass es hier was nützt. Jedenfalls was Glas, Dosen und Papier angeht.

      Leider gibt es hier auch etliche Leute die überall ihren Müll rumliegen lassen. Vor einigen Jahren fanden wir im Wald nen alten Fernseher… Was zum? <_<

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